This year at SXSW, I sat down with freshman Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) for a conversation about the importance of personal relationships in governing in a divided country. Reps. Jacobs and Meijer are both alumni of BPC’s American Congressional Exchange program, which gives Republican and Democrat members of Congress the opportunity to visit each other’s districts to find common ground away from Washington. We covered a broad array of topics, including the war in Ukraine as both are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Jacobs was quick to point out that, “There’s broad bipartisan unification around Ukraine. You can see that from the omnibus bill that just passed,” and Rep Meijer noted, “What Putin wants more than anything is to create division among the West. But he actually did the opposite.” We were joined by a thoughtful and engaged audience which came as no surprise given the nature of the crowd at SXSW.
I appreciated the audience’s willingness to challenge the members on how bipartisanship is possible in the current polarized environment. Rep. Meijer highlighted the progress that they often make when you cut out microphones and cameras and can have real conversations without fear of clips appearing in attack ads. Rep. Jacobs made clear that she is not a moderate when arguing that bipartisanship isn’t finding the watered down compromise, but working across the aisle to make real progress on a shared interest.
Our conversation reinforced that meaningful bipartisanship relies on faithful partisans finding compromise on policy while holding fast to principle. If you’re interested in hearing more from Reps. Jacobs and Meijer, check out their podcast on BPC Weekly recorded before our conversation at SXSW.
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